NASA has shared the first pictures showing its new all-electric X-57 Maxwell plane that will be quieter and up to 500 per cent more efficient than conventional aircraft.
It will be the first manned X-plane produced by NASA in two decades and is designed to help develop standards for future all-electric aircraft.
The X-57 Maxwell started life as a four-seater Tecnam P2006T conventional light aircraft that had its piston engines replaced with 12 electric motors.
NASA says it has bespoke skinny wings that will boost efficiency by reducing drag in flight and has rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to provide power.
The artist concept images shows the planes in their final of four configurations worked on by NASA since it was first conceived.
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This artist’s concept image shows NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell, in its final configuration, flying in cruise mode over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California
These concept art images depict NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell, in several phases of operation at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base in California
The aircraft has been developed by a team of engineers, researchers, pilots, visual artists, and many other people at NASA.
It gets its takeoff and landing propulsion from 12 high-lift electric motors on the edge of the wing before wingtip propellors take over when in flight.
These are just prototype artist impressions, rather than the completed plane.
NASA says when it is fully developed the X-57 could be 500 per cent more efficient at cruising speeds than conventional aircraft.
This would be while producing no in-flight emissions and much less noise.
The small, experimental airplane has a high-aspect ratio wing and 5ft diameter wingtip propellers it used to recover energy while in flight.
‘The X-57 aircraft uses 12 small motors located across the wing to increase airflow so that the wing produces lift even when the aircraft is flying slowly,’ NASA said.
The craft will eventually be used to set the standard for all future all electric aircraft and provide rules for those planes to be licensed to operate.
NASA said: ‘Electric power is efficient and reliable. Electric motors can be placed anywhere on the plane to improve efficiency.’
The plane requires ‘no fuel, no combustion engine’ and ‘It’s powered 100 per cent by a cutting-edge distributed electric propulsion system,’ said NASA.
The X-57 gets its name from a Scottish physicist who pioneered electromagnetism.
‘James Clerk Maxwell, a 19th century Scottish physicist, pioneered the theory of electromagnetism,’ NASA said.
Adding: ‘This paved the way for Einstein’s theory of special relativity and Planck’s formulation of quantum mechanics.’
For more than 70 years, Edwards Airforce Base has been home to many historic X-planes, or experimental aircraft, responsible for expanding the envelope and pushing the limits of aviation
The new X-57 Maxwell features a range of propellors across the wing with two propellors on the tips of the wing
The small, experimental airplane has a high-aspect ratio wing and 5ft diameter wingtip propellers it used to recover energy while in flight
The plane is a ‘small, experimental airplane powered by electricity,’ according to NASA, who say it’s ‘all-electric technology will make flying cleaner, quieter, and more sustainable.’
It’s part of the X-plane series of aircraft developments. X-planes are experimental US aircraft and rockets that test new technologies and aerodynamic concepts.
This has included the Bell X1 – the first plane to fly the speed of sound at Mach 1 – crewed by ‘Right Stuff’ legend Chuck Yeager in 1945.
The X-15 holds the unofficial world speed and altitude records for an airplane after reaching Mach 6.7 and 354,200 feet – it was flown seven times by first man on the Moon Neil Armstrong before he became an astronaut.
The more recent X-29 was built of carbon fibre composite material to allow for greater flexibility and was the first forward swept wing aircraft to fly supersonic.
WHAT IS NASA’S ‘SON OF CONCORDE’ X-PLANE?
Nasa is developing a 1,100mph (1,770kph) aircraft that has been dubbed the ‘son of Concorde’.
The vehicle is the first in a series of aircraft Nasa is developing with Lockheed Martin in a quest to build a commercially viable supersonic jet.
It is designed to fly at Mach 1.4 (925 mph / 1,488 kph) at an altitude of 55,000 feet (10 miles).
Dubbed the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), the research craft aims to cut out the sonic booms associated with supersonic travel.
Pictured is an artist’s impression of the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator (LBFD)
The aircraft is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight to reduce the volume of the shaped signature, and was developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works over 20 years.
The team is hoping to achieve a sonic boom 60 dBA lower than other supersonic aircraft, such as Concorde.
Recent research has shown it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped in such a way that the shock waves it forms when flying faster than the speed of sound can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.